This week marks the beginning of February, a month of Valentine’s Day decorations, longer evenings, budding trees, and the final throes of flu season. While typically the flu hits earlier in the season, this year influenza has been particularly severe and widespread. If you’re lucky, you spent a couple of miserable days in bed with chicken soup and a box of tissues, and are now on the mend, or were able to avoid it altogether. Many people get a flu shot in the winter to prevent the flu, and take prescribed medications while they have it, but fewer people make the conscious effort to rehabilitate their immune systems afterwards. Antibiotics are prescribed to combat bacterial infections, and while they are great at that, they also wreak havoc on the positive bacteria in your stomach. We tend to think of bacteria as being harmful, and although some bacteria do cause disease, we also have millions of positive bacteria in our bodies that contribute to immune function and good digestion.
After you’ve had a course of antibiotics, try getting more probiotics into your diet! Some people take probiotic supplements, which is a good option, but there are also plenty of easy and delicious ways to work probiotics into your meals. Yoghurt is an excellent way to sneak some calcium into your breakfast, so scoop some onto your cereal or granola to keep you going between breakfast and lunch. Yogurt is also fabulous on Indian food, and helps to neutralize overpowering spices. Store bought yoghurts are usually labeled if they contain probiotics, so don’t forget to check! Probiotic foods don’t play a major role in the American diet-although their popularity is definitely on the rise-so yogurt is probably the most approachable probioti food to most people. But if you’re feeling adventurous, try some sourkraut on a hotdog, or just as a side dish. Similar to sourkraut but enlivened with fermented carrots, onions, garlic and ginger as well as cabbage, is the Korean traditional staple known as kim chi. Or pick up a bottle of kombucha at you local coffee shop.
Keep in mind that although probiotics are delicious and helpful for immune function, the FDA has not researched them as fully as other medications. Don’t attempt to cure specific health conditions with probiotics without consulting your doctor.